FHD Remix Chapter 6
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 5: Glie's Only Defender
Chapter 6: Life in the Moat
"Tatakai," the Communicator notes her arrival with surprise, "I can't believe you're still alive, let alone up and about. Nobody has survived touching the wall since Rakka 55 years ago. There have been five since, the most recent two winters ago. Surely you must know better, you describe the illness yourself as delta radiation."
Looking about to confirm that there are no Toga, she speaks, "It was a mistake, I'm sorry for troubling you," she answers, "It certainly won't happen again if I can do anything to prevent it."
The Communicator chuckles, "You say that as though you're responsible for all of Glie, not merely your own actions. Say, how is it going with you and the forester?"
"That's what I came to talk to you about," Tatakai sighs, "I thought you'd have found out by now. Three days ago, we agreed that I just wasn't cut out for the work, and last night, the Saviour revealed to me why I was brought here: the work I have always been cut out for."
He sighs in disgust. She's discussed this with the Communicator before, and he's explained at length that such work is not an option for her.
"I am the defender of Glie," she says without cheer, "It is not an option. The Saviour has equipped me for the job, and showed me the need."
The Communicator answers, "There is no such job, I told you that before. The wall defends Glie, and the community watch looks after the people. As you know, a haibane is not allowed on the community watch, even as appropriate as you would otherwise be for such a job."
"You know a lot more than the haibane of Old Home," she says, "Shimoni told me that no one has ever touched the wall before. I had already known of Patricia, the one you must have been referring to as the most recent, from listening to conversations in the square, but I didn't say anything about her to Shimoni. Menmo told me that Rakka, your predecessor, had a job inside the wall before she became the Communicator. Whatever that job is, I will perform its duties as well."
The Communicator remarks, "Your ability to observe is surprising."
Tatakai grunts, "Well, I learned the hard way. That's obvious from some of my more recent dreams, with brushes just as close as last night."
"Rakka's first job is no longer available," the Communicator says in a grave tone.
"Well, dang, I guess that leaves me really in the lurch then. Will I have to return my Haibane Renmei log book and subsist on weeds and berries doing the job God has given me?"
The Communicator stands motionless. Behind his oddly familiar mask is any possible expression, Tatakai can't see through it to know.
"Follow me," he says suddenly. He leads her to the back of the temple walking far faster than he ever has before, opens a door. He seems as impatient to throw her off the trail as she is to follow it. Down some stairs, they're obviously underground. The room is warm, and slightly humid. Tatakai sees a line all the way around it, up on the stairs, up on the robes lining the walls. It is dirty, smelling slightly of mold. The Communicator seems surprised, but not alarmed.
"It's been flooded recently," Tatakai says, stooping to note what seem to be drainage holes in an irregular pattern along the base of the wall. She pulls a chunk of mud out of one of them with her finger, and wipes it out with a cloth she has on her for use around Old Home. It is now the only hole that is clean. As she expected, the hole disappears. She does not know upon what she had based her expectation, though.
The Communicator gives her a heavy, hooded robe with sewn on gloves. He instructs her never to take it off when outside the suit room away from the temple and that anything they find can't attack them while they are wearing them.
"Never have both suit room doors open at the same time, and always have a suit on when the outer door is open," she guesses correctly as they head up the stairs.
"That is correct," the Communicator says.
The Communicator leads her into a boat. She is silent as he pushes the boat down a canal, or "moat" as she has already begun calling it in her mind. It has a very slight curve to it.
"Soon, you will see why Rakka's job can no longer be accomplished," the Communicator says.
"I repaired the wall on the other side of the Western Woods using the Saviour's light he had put at my command," she says. On either side of the exotic corridor are bronze tags, corroded and dirty, getting more corroded and more dirty by the yard. Included along with the dirt are tiny glowing flakes of metal, stuck to the wall in wavy horizontal patterns. The walls on either side appear to rise forever into a starless abyss over their heads.
"You will need more than a story and a light show to prove that to me, Tatakai," the Communicator says in a skeptical tone.
Tatakai is looking about, keeping her bearings as the boat continues. She smiles as she sees it. Suddenly the corridor is darker, but the polished tags are so bright in the light of the lantern that they appear almost golden, the light leaves are spread about in neat, flower like blooms almost at random, and there isn't a crack to be seen on either side.
"Now you have it," Tatakai says in a snicker, trying not to laugh.
The Communicator, startled and quite alarmed is looking about. "My God," he gasps, falling to his knees.
Tatakai kneels with him, "Were you afraid of how I might take the news that Glie was about to fall? That this section had collapsed? I know where we are, inside the wall not far from where I touched it. What you were expecting to show me: Every few minutes there would be a crunching bang, the heaving ground kicking up the water, right up over the catwalk, we'd be arriving at an impassible pile of debris that we would be inside right now if it still existed." Tatakai is speaking in a humble and sincere tone, totally unoffended by his previous scepticism, "Do you believe me now?"
Tatakai closes her eyes, remaining on her knees. "Saviour," she says, "you say they haven't been used in a very long time, and he does not know that they exist. He can't teach me how to use them then, can he? Please, Father, in the name of your Son, the Saviour, you must show me how they work." She kneels silently for another minute.
The Communicator, now the warrior's student, watches silently as Tatakai struggles to her feet, uses the pole to rotate the boat so that the gates in the railing face the catwalk on either side. She ties the boat to one of the pilings in the outer catwalk. Then she reaches over the edge of the boat, under the rail and pulls up a T-shaped handle. The Communicator is stunned, thinking they were just decorations around the outside of the boat's hull.
BANG! The Communicator jumps, startled, watching the boat bob in the water.
"That was the drop keel," Tatakai explains, then reaches down near the middle of the boat and lifts up a previously unknown hatch on a hinge. Under it is a pattern of nested circles. Once she has rested it in the open position, she holds her hand out to the Communicator, "The puller, please."
The Communicator hands her the tool, a long pole with a small hook and an eye midway along its length apparently given as a more secure grip. She inserts it in the hole in the middle of the nested circles and lifts it. The mast, a 30cm diameter the interior of which is patterned with triangular voids except for a pattern of rungs, rises from the middle of the boat as Tatakai lifts it, rungs set into the middle. Using the puller on the rung, it rises easily. Into each rung is formed a lug which fits the puller's eye perfectly. The Communicator watches in silence as she raises the telescoping mast, section at a time. Ten sections, six metres each; she struggles as the mast grows taller and heavier, the Communicator stunned that the boat is so stable. For the final section, each ratchety rotation of the puller against a groove in the boat's deck raises the mast just two centimetres, it takes three hundred pumps to raise the last section.
She stands and rests for a few minutes, "I'm going to need some thermal underwear for this job," she huffs. "It will be faster to climb than descend," she explains as she taps a vertical line beside the rungs three times, a railing falls out, supports two every metre. "You won't be able to because the carabiner pocket can't be opened without real wings." Underneath the robe, her wings cause the back to bulge. She reaches over her right shoulder and grabs the glowing loop that protrudes above the Toganese lettering. She clips the glowing carabiner, apparently forged of the same material as her halo, onto the railing and starts climbing up the mast, taking the lantern with her. The carabiner hangs on the bottom of the rail with nothing attached to it. As she climbs, it starts following her, silently rising. Each of the railing supports opens upward from the mast as her carabiner forces it to, then returns to its position with a clack after it passes. A large crack becomes visible in the outer wall on her left as she ascends. "Normally, I need to see damage to repair it," she explains.
She holds out her left hand and her halo and the carabiner brightens. A slight rumble as the wall shrinks away, and once the crack is closed, from the bottom up the bright light of the Saviour seals it, Tatakai's eyes following into the unseen heights. For the first time in his life, and for just a brief instant, the Communicator can see the narrow ceiling over a hundred metres above. The crack is gone as though it had never existed. Tatakai descends, slower than she climbed, as she needs to reach to her right and lift each railing support to allow her robe's carabiner to pass through. The Communicator realizes that the same magic works in the carabiner and the halo, and that the invisible harness binding the carabiner to her probably works only with haibane. Once she has arrived at the bottom and replaced the carabiner in the pocket of the robe, she hooks the puller into the opening between the boat and the mast, at a particular groove it is designed to fit into, and lowers the mast's biggest section with a gentle rubbing sound. She repeats this with each mast section in turn, leaving the puller red hot all the way up to the eye. There are two slots under the hatch near the hinge, one with a puller in it, and one without. She drops her hot puller into the empty slot and pulls out the cold one, handing it to the Communicator, who notes the slight difference in the Toganese engraved on the handle to identify it. He didn't even know it existed.
Tatakai closes the hatch, then walks over to the T-handle at the base of the railing next to the outer edge of the moat. She jams the toe of her boot against the toe board. Not quite right, so she kicks it again, recessing a small block built into it. She then takes the T-handle and pulls on it several times. It moves in much the same way as the starter cord of a lawnmower, but she's in no hurry to crank whatever it is that needs to be cranked. The drop keel, the Communicator feels. Each pull ends with a clunk. After twenty pulls of this handle, it no longer yields to Tatakai, and she crouches to tuck it back in the outside of the boat where she found it. The boat is in the same state that they boarded it in.
"The- ... I don't know," Tatakai sighs as though dredging for a memory her mind won't yield, "personality of this place seems somehow familiar, like I met the people who built this wall in my previous life ... perhaps even discussed it with them. What else have we forgotten?" She looks up into the blackness above in wonder and respect.
The Communicator unwittingly quotes the third law of Arthur C. Clarke, "Sufficiently advanced technology cannot be distinguished from magic, Tatakai. Do you believe that?"
"Oh," she sighs, "Not all of this is technology, but the miracle working power of the Saviour and his Father." Humbly, she squeaks as though a hamster might if he suddenly realized his exercise wheel made the Earth rotate on its axis, "I don't know where the technology ends ... and the miracles begin."
They make their way back to the suit room and the Communicator opens the door. They enter and then they close it. The Communicator explains, "We must now stay in this room for one hour before we may take off our robes, and return to the temple." The Communicator wonders if Tatakai was paying any attention, "Are you hearing this? Occasionally, a light leaf bloom will happen in the room while you are waiting. Don't be alarmed, it is normal for it to happen every now and then, especially in the late fall. We will probably have one this time because I've had one every time this year. Are you paying attention?"
Tatakai was paying attention to something else. She holds a finger to her mouth and slowly walks towards the wall next to her, then along it. Tap tap ... tap tap. Something invisible is padding around her, in the room with them.
"Tatakai?" the Communicator asks.
The invisible presence seems startled at the sound of her name and runs all the way past the Communicator, brushing against his robe and disturbing it.
"It cannot attack us as long as we wear the robes," he explains.
"They don't usually make their presence felt like that, do they? Does anyone know what they look like?" she asks.
The Communicator shakes his head, "No."
"I do," Tatakai says, "and it knows who I am. Communicator, meet Wraith. Wraith, Communicator."
They can hear the soft padding foot step retreat all the way into the corner as Tatakai raises her hand. "Good bye, Wraith," she says calmly.
With the flash from her hand, the wraith appears, crying in agony, crushed against the inner door. It is the same type of creature she had met on Mars in her previous life. In moments its dead body burns away, leaving a scattering of light leaves.
"The wall has some way of converting the delta vector into this stuff," she realizes. Tatakai gathers up and weighs the light leaves, satisfied that all the delta vector has been converted. To be safe, she takes a patch out of her pocket and peels off the top, sets it on the floor. The circle in the middle is green. After three minutes of staring at it without any change, she says, "It's safe now." and starts taking off her robe.
"We still have another forty-five minutes," the Communicator says in alarm.
Tatakai tightens up her robe again, then reaches for the inner door and opens it just a crack, and just for a moment, then closes it again.
"Great, that restarts the-" the Communicator stops cold. The patch Tatakai had put on the floor has turned black.
"Delta radiation comes from delta vector," she explains flatly, "The wall has been designed specifically to keep the stuff out of Glie. Delta vector sinks, which is why this suit room is at the bottom of the stairs. Its progress into Glie would be quite slow if both doors were left open. The wall can remove the vector, both from Glie's interior and from this room."
She puts another patch on the floor. It stays green for the full three minutes. She picks it up and holds it against the outer door. It takes a few seconds to turn black.
"Hmm, I should get a high dose sampling on the door" she says. She takes another patch, yellow once she peels the leaf from it, stoops and presses it against the bottom of the door. It takes forty seconds to turn black. "That's bad," she says, "The Saviour must have helped me survive my dose from last night. He must have shielded me from getting an untreatable dose. I should be dead."
After that confession, the Communicator thinks it is rather odd that she would take off her robe and start mopping the floor during the one hour wait. "I'll be fine as long as I don't touch the door." The stone room is pretty much spotless by the time the hour is up, except for the inside door and the floor within about half a metre of it. Tatakai is swabbing out the liquid ports near the floor when the Communicator declares that the hour is up and opens the inner door. "You could have a job cleaning," he says.
"Because there are so few places haibane can work," she answers, "All those jobs are taken."
So Tatakai has found her job in Glie. In addition to that, she polishes the Toga tags and gathers the "hikarinium" light leaves, made of the metal that the haibane halos are forged from.
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 7: The Annual Attack